Listening to Next Thing, the new album from Frankie Cosmos (aka Greta Kline, daughter of actors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates), is like eavesdropping on the private thoughts, daydreams and observations of a young girl on the cusp of actual adulthood. Armed with catchy pop melodies and Kline’s lovely voice, Next Thing captures that crucial life phase with honesty and charm—and remarkably, it does so in 15 songs in the space of 30 minutes. It’s destined to be one of the best records of 2016, and has already found a more than solid fan base, if her sold-out show at Bowery Ballroom on Sunday is any indication.
At just 22, Kline has already built a prolific musical career, touring both nationally and internationally and garnering music media adoration. She got started in 2009 by uploading home-recorded albums to Bandcamp. In 2014, she released her first record Zentropy, which New York magazine rated as the number one pop album of that year. After signing with Bayonet Records, Kline made Next Thing, her first full-band recording. She joins the ranks of a new crop of young musicians, including Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, who have been much praised for their compelling performances and outstanding songwriting.
Brooklyn Based: Your new video, “Sinister,” was recently released and I found it very whimsical and original. (By the way, that is one ripped dude!) What was the inspiration behind the song and what influenced you to write it? Who came up with the concept for the video?
Frankie Cosmos: I first started writing “Sinister” while I was in Binghamton tracking the Porches record. I went into the hallway while Cameron Wisch [drummer for Porches] was tracking some drums and I recorded a demo onto Photo Booth on my laptop using a cool little thrift store keyboard that Hunter Davidsohn [founder of Business District Recording] had in the studio. I was just thinking a lot about past relationships and how they formed the person I am now, and I wrote the song in one sitting.
I ended up taking out a verse but otherwise it’s pretty much true to the demo. As for the video, my friend Eliza [Doyle] had a vision for it and I just trusted her. She was working with the bodybuilder Don Martone on some other video work, and thought it would be cool to have him play an alter-ego for me in the video. I went to Providence, Rhode Island to shoot it one night and it was a really fun and weird time!
I recently saw you perform Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville during the Northside Festival and I thought you and your band sounded terrific that night. What was that experience like for you to perform the songs from such a classic record? Did you grow up a Liz Phair fan?
It was really hard and really fun to do that show! Learning a bunch of songs from one artist is a really interesting experience–it makes you learn things about their style of writing that you might not notice just from listening. We also had a really good time arranging the songs in our own way for the show. It was a whole new creative experience for me, because lately I’m used to just working on my own songs in that way. And yes, I grew up a Liz Phair fan, but only really got into that record in the last few years.
When it came to making Next Thing, was there anything that you wanted to do differently both musically and lyrically from Zentropy?
Frankie Cosmos: The main difference for me was going in with a four-piece band and wanting to capture how that sounded live. When we recorded Zentropy we were still a two-piece. As for lyrically, I think I just changed a bit as a person and that is apparent in the songwriting maybe.
To say that you are a prolific artist is an understatement—I’m struck by the number of songs that you’ve generated in such a young career, beginning with the tracks you uploaded to Bandcamp. Where does your creative energy come from?
I just try to write and record as much as possible. I’ve always been into journaling and it’s just a natural extension of that for me.
You’re probably the only musician in her early 20s who references Arthur Russell in interviews—I don’t even know many people in my own age bracket (30 and over) who have heard of him. How did you come across his music initially and what influence if any does it have on your own songwriting?
I first heard Arthur Russell from a mix CD that my old bandmate made for me in high school. Then I got into him more when I started dating my partner Aaron, who showed me more of his work. I think the thing that inspires me most about Arthur Russell is his fearlessness about trying lots of different things out. It seems like he just goes for it.
You’ll be performing this Saturday at the Bowery Ballroom. After being on the road all over the country and in Europe, is there something still unique and special about playing in your hometown? And does being a native New Yorker inform your work in some way?
Yes, I am so moved by playing shows in New York. It feels like after all these years of loving New York it loves me back in some way–haha. I am so thrilled about the Bowery show, I think it’s gonna be really fun. And it’s a nice time to see all our friends and family after/before being on tour a lot. I don’t know if being from New York informs my work any more than anyone’s hometown informs their work, but it definitely makes its way into my songs.
Frankie Cosmos is playing Saturday at the Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St., Manhattan. Her latest album, Next Thing, is out now.